Mark Smith will leave the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 28 and plans to take a position with another company.
During his 16 months with the chamber, Smith implemented new practices and established a foundation of transparency. He planned to retire and move closer to his family in South Dakota, but an offer that was too good to refuse came from a company Smith wishes not to name until the offer matures into a contract.
When Smith moved to Buffalo and took over as the chamber’s CEO in October 2017, he knew he would have a lot of work ahead of him. He would be in charge of helping small businesses, organizing Longmire Days and providing leadership. Internal controls and procedures also needed updated, the team was disheartened and the chamber was in the midst of a scandal with its former CEO.
Smith assumed the position two months after former CEO Angela Fox resigned. Fox was later charged with three counts of theft from the chamber. She was convicted in January and will be sentenced in March.
Smith said he knew he would have to restore the community’s faith in the chamber.
It was a task that, along with all of the other responsibilities, he did well, according to chamber board Director Cindy Kremers, who described Smith as “solid” and “forward thinking.”
“Mark was hugely instrumental in not only the community but also with internal processes,” Kremers said. “There were a lot of things that he helped us institute into the chamber for checks and balances so we can be more transparent. The changes we’ve already made to internal processes and the structure of the chamber of operations mean that during this transition the Chamber will continue business as usual.” Smith said he’s going to miss the job and the people he’s worked with. He said that he has made a lot of great memories in his time with the chamber, but his favorite memories are the moments spent with his chamber team.
“The best thing has been working day to day with this team,” Smith said. “When I first got here, it was Jennifer (McCormick) and I. Then we added a couple of people. Then we were fortunate enough to get Lori (Clark). That is my greatest memory, and what I’ll miss the most.”
Jennifer McCormick, director of marketing and programs, said that she instantly meshed with Smith and the team only improved from his leadership.
“Mark and I clicked the first day he arrived at the Chamber,” McCormick said. “It has been a great working relationship. We have a good team, and he will be missed in this office.”
The chamber will operate business as usual, according to Kremers. The internal controls that have been implemented over the course of Smith’s leadership will allow the Chamber to focus on serving its customers, Kremers said.
“He was very ethical, very energetic, such a positive force, that I really enjoyed working with Mark,” Kremers said. “We’re sad to lose Mark. Moving forward, the board will continue to focus on chamber members and listening to their needs… We are working on some funding issues, but I am confident that with the support of our great staff, chamber members and the businesses we will continue to provide a valuable service to our community.”